Of the relational local (1 of 2)

A resurgent ecopoetics post-conference ‘plenary’

In “Gentle Now, Don't Add to Heartache,” Juliana Spahr offers a narrative of the displacement of human imagination defined by creaturely and vegetal affiliation and transelemental immersion in the natural world. Lists of nonhuman species imply an abundant, connective world, and these same are beseeched not to “add to heartache,” prior to their replacement by chemical-industrial products later in the poem.  “We come into the world / and there it is” – the poem’s opening lines prompt. What do we do now, as we continue to reveal the effects of the capitalist-consumerist narrative, as we work toward a different future? This question is answered in various ways in the responses (to two questions) gathered below. In the creative works presented at the academic conference we all attended, I saw a similar thread which I called, responding one of the plenary sessions with Anna Tsing and Donna Haraway, ecopoetic resurgence.

Drawing attention to the relational local (with bodies, culture, community, landscape, and ecosystem as site), not content with describing the shapes and ways and effects of settler-dominant knowledges and environments, attending affectively, through inquiry, to what may be otherwise overlooked, developing new forms of attention – in these ways, contemporary poets intervene. As works akin to artivism, they enact and make visible social responsibility, engage in community, and encourage response.

Participants Respond (the first of 2 groups): 

Whether Underground starts with the ostensible weather: fire, flood, fracking in a western county. It reports, durationally, as field notes, lyric essay, poetry, teaching curricula, political engagement, erasures and procedures. But the external necessarily feeds back. My almanac of place erodes the environment from the inside. Family turns out to be the real geography. As parents of a daughter on the autism spectrum (the project intersects with my wife, the poet Aby Kaupang), we inhabit our place the best we can. Weather becomes whether, to move or stay put. Fire, flood and fracking are entangled in the mesh of kelation, diaper mountains. – Matthew Cooperman [is the author of, most recently, the text + image collaboration Imago for the Fallen World, w/Marius Lehene (Jaded Ibis Press, 2013), a founding editor of Quarter After Eight, and co-poetry editor of Colorado Review. He teaches at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.]

I think of my recent work, Anatomic, as an experiment in metabolic poetics. By performing chemical and microbial testing on my body to look at the way the outside writes the inside, I have come to see the ecological relations of the body’s microbiome and endocrine systems as a form of biosemiotic writing. My blood, for example, is an expressive media communicating the biology of petroculture (the products of multinational corporations are written into my flesh). Reflecting on the structure of this chemical/microbial autobiography, I see the subject as a necessarily composite being involving, along with personal history, ecological relations between nonhuman symbiotic actors as well as volatile military and industrial materials. – Adam Dickinson[’s most recent book, The Polymers, was a finalist for the Governor General’s Award for Poetry (Canada). He teaches poetics and creative writing at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada.]

Layered revelations of place perforate romantic tropes about the environment because the concrete particulars of occasions always transgress the reductive logic of agency. // Moving shattered glass plates through a compost of cut-ups for INDIAN SUMMER RECYCLING, a work that mines life after economic collapse in Appalachian, NC, continues to reveal that experience jars narrative threads back into play, unsettling the dusty, ill-fitting strata of history, relations and mythology. The breakdown of preconceptions about place and identity is a startling call to presence that restores us to wildness as the raw self collapses into the animal it imagined to be other. – Nathan Hauke [is the author, most recently, of Every Living One (Horse Less Press, 2015) and his poems have been anthologized in Hick Poetics (Lost Roads Press, 2015) and The Arcadia Project: North American Postmodern Pastoral (Ahsahta Press, 2012).] 

In my long poem ‘Providence,’ I’m interested in ways in which poetry can allow for an opening of the self and an acknowledgement of the various systems (people, objects, animals, ecosystems, histories) that compose that self. I think of the allegorical figure of Providentia as related to a poetics of permeability—a poetics in which the self capable of, and perhaps defined by, the co-presence of the outside, of the (self as) other. I see this as an artistic act of compassion and vulnerability, in which a permeable self is a site for transformation, complication, and contagion. Rather than focusing primarily on what is currently the case or presenting a prescriptive future, allegory allows me to reimagine the possible in what is actual, to explore what could be—how our world might be different. – Megan Kaminski [is the author of Desiring Map (Coconut Books, 2012), an assistant professor in the Graduate Creative Writing Program at the University of Kansas, and the founder and curator of the Taproom Poetry Series.] 

My poetic project, Dysplace, draws from seven years of working with urban homeless, analysis of city ordinances and renewal plans that discipline public space, and personal relationships with street communities. To David Harvey’s imperative that understanding space involves “integrating the geographical and sociological imagination,” I add poetic imagination. Your invocation of “feral citizenship” resonates with how I hope to position myself in investigating both street spaces and the contemporary landscape of poetic practice itself. If it is possible to generate an aggregate of subjects in the set (or ecosystem) “poetry,” and then translate that aggregate into spatial terms, what spaces in the “poecosytem” go un/under-represented? Homelessness, and socio-spatial conditions surrounding and producing it, constitute one such omission. – Brenda Sieczkowsk [is the author of Like Oysters Observing the Sun (Black Lawrence Press, 2013). She has worked full-time in homeless outreach and is now completing her PhD in Creative Writing and Literature from the University of Utah.]